BOSTON (AP) — A mother has been arrested and her boyfriend is charged with murder in the death of a little girl whose body was found inside a trash bag on a Boston Harbor island this summer, a prosecutor said Friday, after a monthslong campaign to learn the child's identity.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said he authorized a murder charge for Michael McCarthy, 35, and the girl's mother, Rachelle Bond, 40, is under arrest for accessory to murder after the fact.
"At just shy of three years old, Bella Bond was a true innocent," Conley said at a news conference announcing the charges.
"This child, whose very name means beauty, was murdered," he said.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, said Bond and McCarthy are blaming each other for the girl's death.
"It appears as though it was a situation of the boyfriend who was involved and apparently, I think, mother and boyfriend sort of blaming each other in terms of who harmed the child."
Conley said McCarthy was being treated at a Boston hospital for a medical condition unrelated to the case.
Both Bond and McCarthy are due to be arraigned on the charges Monday.
The discovery of the girl's body sparked a massive social media campaign. Within two weeks, a composite image of the chubby-cheeked, brown-eyed girl had reached an estimated 47 million people on Facebook.
Despite the widespread publicity, a text tip line and billboards with the girl's image, investigators were frustrated for months as they tried to figure out who she was and how she died. They got their big break after Boston police received a tip and a search warrant was executed Thursday at Rachelle Bond's apartment.
Officials from the state's child protection agency said they had contact with Bella twice, for four months in 2012 and three months in 2013. In both cases, officials described the involvement as "support for neglect," and the cases were later closed.
Between 2001 and 2006, the Department of Children and Families terminated parental rights for two of her mother's older children. One of the children was later adopted by her maternal grandmother; the other was adopted by someone outside the family, DCF officials said.
Rhonda Mann, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said the agency has been working with law enforcement for several months in an effort to help police identify the girl.
"Now that we know her name, the story is no less tragic. DCF has not had an open case with this family for over two years, but did have brief involvement with Baby Bella as an infant," she said in a statement.
Because the case involving Bella had been closed, it was not among cases that DCF examined after the discovery of the remains on Deer Island, the agency said.
The girl's body was found June 25 inside a trash bag on Deer Island in Winthrop by a woman walking a dog.
Conley would not say specifically how her body got there, but implied that her mother placed her there. He said evidence investigators uncovered led them to "have a good faith basis" to charge her with being an accessory after the fact to murder.
After her body was found, police immediately appealed to the public for help in identifying the girl. Using photos of her remains, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created a composite image of what the girl might have looked like when she was alive.
They were flooded with tips, which led authorities to check on the well-being of dozens of little girls but did not lead them to Baby Doe's family.
Conley would not comment on how the girl died, but said more information may be released when McCarthy and Bond are arraigned Monday. There were no obvious signs of trauma to her body. An autopsy performed by the state medical examiner's office did not immediately determine the manner or cause of her death.
Police chased down tips from around the world, but experts determined pollen on the girl's blanket and leggings and in her hair came from trees found in New England.
Residents of the apartment building that police searched told reporters that investigators asked about a woman who used to live there.
Neighbors said they had not seen a girl who looked like the composite photo released by police since March or April. They said they were told she had been taken into custody of child welfare.
Conley did not comment on a possible motive.
"That's always a perplexing matter for us," he said. "Why does anyone kill a 2-year-old child? What could she have done?"